Later on in the sermon we'll be tackling Colossians 4:2-6 which includes a passage on prayer, and since prayer is such an important topic I want to address some extra aspects of prayer here in the exhortation.
A few months ago I started listening to the Great Courses. If you aren’t familiar with the Great Courses, what they are is a series of college level courses that you can pick from and get the lectures downloaded to an app on your phone. Right now there are 584 different courses to choose from. I enjoy looking through the "sales" and the “70% off courses” and since they cleverly rotate those on sale, I am constantly looking through the courses. One of the courses I've been listening to is “how conversation works."
I'm not sure why I picked up this course but after I listened to it I knew that God had chosen that one for me because I could quickly see that I have areas for improvement when it comes to communication and making conversation flow. This course has been really helpful for me as I start to think more about how to have a good conversation and how to connect with people.
One metaphor that helped me the most was this idea of the "conversational floor". In its basic form, this metaphor of the conversational floor depicts who is out on the floor speaking and who is listening. It's important to know who has the floor, who is listening to the one on the conversational floor, and it’s important to let each other step on and off the conversational floor to help each other in conversation. I want to use this metaphor as we think about prayer and specifically think about how we approach prayer.
I want to make three observations about approaching prayer:
1. God Speaks First
Let's think about this conversational floor metaphor and consider prayer as being a conversation with God. We are in prayer coming to the conversational floor between us and God. No one else is there. It's just you and God.
Part of this first observation is that God is already there. He's opened the conversational door so that we can stand before him on the floor that he has secured. God is the one who speaks first.
How do we know this? What does he say? Well, an important aspect of prayer is that God speaks to us first through his Word, through his Bible. See prayer is a response to the knowledge of God. And where do we get that knowledge? Bible study.
God spoke first. God initiated. God spoke creation into being through his words. God created people through his words and in Genesis 2:15 it says God took man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep and God spoke to the man.
In speaking first, God has infinite topics to discuss in your life – all the various topics of the Bible. Think about all the things the Bible says and all the Truth it has and all the simple and clear parts and all the confusing parts and all the convicting parts and all the loving and gracious parts. God brings those topics to you. And our part is to read his Word and then respond.
2. We Respond to God's Word
God knows our hearts and so our prayers are a response to him. He has initiated towards us and we have the Bible so as we study it and inhale Scripture we respond to it and pray. Scripture aids greatly in laying our heart bare before God.
As Pastor David says in his book "Habits of Grace" we inhale Scripture and exhale prayer.
This prayer is an orientation in life. We are to be coming to God in prayer to get more of God and allow God to work on our heart to be more connected with Him than with our sinful nature.
We see prayer as the orientation of Jesus’ life in Mark 1:35 which says, "And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed."
Let me note one application point here as you stand on the proverbial conversational floor with God. Augustine taught that the most important way to approach God on the conversational floor is to come with a humble heart. I didn't say a perfect heart, or a calm heart, or a peaceful heart. But Humble. We are sinners who are approaching God, our Creator.
So now we want to confess our sins. We are coming to God. He has spoken to us through his word and in his word he says that if you confess your sins he is faithful and just to forgive you of your sins. So now in our time of confession we can respond to that truth and confess our sins to him.
Let’s ask him now in our moment of silence.
Prayer of Confession
Father God, indeed we confess our sins, and you say that if we confess our sins you are faithful and just to forgive us our sins, on the basis of Jesus dying in our place. Thank you for hearing our prayers. In Jesus name, amen.